Everton Club Focus – Impressive team performance books FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool

Everton booked an all-Merseyside FA Cup semi-final with a comprehensive victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. David Moyes’ side won 2-0 with a Nikica Jelavic effort and a David Vaughan own goal, but that tells only a fraction of the tale of Everton’s performance.

It was as close to faultless as it is realistic to expect from a football team. Everton were organised in defence, competitive in midfield and dangerous in attack – it took until the 93rd minute for Sunderland to break through the Toffees’ back line, while the midfield four of Leon Osman, Darron Gibson, Marouane Fellaini and Magaye Gueye were powerful going forward and industrious in defence in equal measure. The one-up-one-off partnership of Tim Cahill and January signing Jelavic, meanwhile, showed signs of flourishing nicely – the interplay between the duo and Osman, who regularly drifted infield from the right wing bamboozled Sunderland almost from kick-off.

The performance of Osman in particular drew much praise – one contributor to the BBC’s rolling coverage of the match described the Academy product as Everton’s answer to Andres Iniesta, the Barcelona schemer at the heart of much of the Spanish side’s sumptuous play. That may be overstating matters a little but the spirit of the point is fair. Osman is sometimes overshadowed by the dazzling combination of Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines, or in the past by Mikel Arteta, but the 30-year-old has arguably the quickest feet at Goodison Park and the work rate to match. At times a victim of his versatility, regularly shunted around midfield to plug gaps left by injuries, suspensions or departures, Osman has rarely had an extended run in what many feel is his best position, the centre of midfield, the role from where he dazzled Tottenham Hotspur in creating the only goal of Everton’s 1-0 victory earlier this season.

On the opposite flank to Osman was Gueye, Moyes was almost forced to turn to the French winger in the absence of the cup-tied Steven Pienaar, the injured Seamus Coleman and the unavailable Royston Drenthe, who returned to the Netherlands for personal reasons. It was likely a straight choice for the role between Gueye and Victor Anichebe, but the former did more than enough to justify his inclusion in creating the opening goal with a smart cross and frequently troubling the Sunderland defence. The 21-year-old remains a little raw with inexperience but put in possibly his most impressive performance against the Mackems, linking with Baines in a manner to make even Pienaar proud. As with any inexperienced player the bigger question is can they replicate that performance on a regular basis but considering Everton’s small squad and the injury problems that have tied the hands of the manager, Gueye will see more action before season’s end.

After the disappointment of losing 3-0 to Liverpool just a few weeks ago, Everton have earned the chance to right that wrong, inspired by a superb team performance on a night that will live long in Evertonian memories.

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